Some chemistry: what’s in it and what’s it good for?

Since citrus oils are usually obtained by the grating process (instead of steam distillation), they always contain valuable, relatively large molecules such as flavonoids.

As a result of the newer regulations for cosmetic products, these are often distilled away because the „bad“ furocoumarins may not or hardly be contained. However, these ensure a better shelf life of the citrus oils, which do not last long anyway,

they have a mood-enhancing effect and,

according to various studies, even (in vitro) antitumor.

This mix of monoterpenes (especially para-cymene (p-cymene), myrcene and both pinene molecules) gives lemon oil a certain pain-relieving effect.

Pinene has a slightly stimulating effect.

Esters with the right monoterpenols have an antispasmodic, antispasmodic and relaxing effect.

The furocoumarins it contains enhance this gently calming effect. Animal experiments showed that lemon oil has a cramp-preventing effect. [Lopes Campêlo LM, de Lima S, Mendes Feitosa C, Mendes de Freitas R. Evaluation of central nervous system effects of Citrus limon essential oil in mice. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy 21(4): 668-673, Jul./Aug. 2011].

Substances     *)


65% limonene

2% alpha pinene

12[ beta pinene

9% gamma terpinene

0.2% alpha terpinene

0.4% terpinolene

0.4% alpha thujas

1.5% beta myrrene

0.3% p-cymene

camphene, trans icimen,

2% Sabines,

0.3% phellandrene



0.3% beta caryophyllene

Alpha Bergamot

0.4% beta-bisalbolene



0.1% geraniol

0.1% nerol

0.2% linalool


0.2% alpha-terpineol


0.9% neral

2-3% Geranial **)

0.1% citronellal

0.2% nonanal

0.2% octanal,



0.7% neryl acetate

0.3-0.7% geranyl acetate

octyl acetate

linalyl acetate

citronellyl acetate


0.1% methyl heptanone


1.5% coumarins and furocoumarins

e.g. 0.6% bergapten, 0.2% bergamottin

**) Lemon scent/flavor is often replaced by „citral“. This can either be produced synthetically or obtained naturally from e.g. lemongrass. „Citral“ is a generic term for geranial and neral

Even if citral is very reminiscent of lemon scent: if you look at the many different ingredients, even the „non-chemist“ will realize that it cannot be equated with lemon oil. Often, however, this scent/taste impression is enough for many producers.

On the other hand, I cannot confirm the often used argument that the normal consumer would not notice the difference. In most cases, complete laypeople can even recognize differences in the quality of lemon oils.


Effects of the individual substance classes


Antiseptic, antiviral, bactericidal, immunostimulant

Some have anti-cancer effects (d-limonene),

analgesic, local anesthetic,



Antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory), antipyretic (fever reducer), skin-generating

Antiallergic, immunomodulating, antioxidant, bactericidal



(the term refers to the structure- with the suffix „ol“, there are many different substances that are structured in this way with different effects. What we normally think of as „alcohol“ is just one of them


Antiseptic, bactericidal, antiviral, fungicidal

skin friendly

Aquaretic (promotes water elimination)


monoterpene ketones

Secretolytic (promotes production of a thin mucus)

spasmolytic (antispasmodic)


Epithelialising, promoting granulation (wound healing)


anti-infective. fungicide (“fungus-killing”), virucidal (“virus-killing”)

anti-inflammatory (anti-inflammatory), antipyretic (against fever),



Antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory)

Very skin friendly

Strongly spasmolytic (antispasmodic)

Fungicide (kills fungi and their spores)

Stimulating lymph flow


Antibacterial, immunostimulating,

stimulating lymph flow,

anti-inflammatory (anti-inflammatory)

spasmolytic (antispasmodic)

powerful antioxidant (when the coumarins have been removed, the oil has a much lower durability)

Like all citrus fruits, the lemon is rich in phosphorus and pectin. 100 grams of lemon contain on average:

Energy             151-235kJ (35-56kcal)

Water              84-90g

Fat                   0.6g

Potassium       149mg             7%*

Calcium           11mg               1%*

Magnesium     28mg               9%*

Phosphorus     20mg               3%*

vitamin C         51mg               71%*

* Proportion of the daily requirement of an adult , Crops > Lemons and limes. In: FAO Production Statistics 2020.

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